Author Archive: folknotions

“Wait for the Exodus”: Today in Gaza

Palestinian infant injured by missle fire
Maybe we’ve stopped praying for Palestine. Maybe we never cared to start. Maybe it was too hard to ask God for a fix to this complex situation; and, hey, we don’t know the history well enough.

I hear lots of Christians decrying violence in Kenya – cuz, ya know, there are missionaries there. It’s a “save-able” country.
I haven’t heard much Christian response to the remarks made by Israeli deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai that if Hamas does not stop its rocket fire, then it will be in for a big shoah and Israel will defend itself at all costs.

What does shoah mean? Well, it can be translated as “big disaster”. But, for most folks who speak Hebrew, shoah generally means holocaust. It is almost exclusively used to describe the mass extermination of the Jews during World War II, and certainly it would not be used by a high ranking official in public for any other reason. (more…)

In the Shadow of Classist Ethnocentrism: Prophetic Voices Against “The Status Quo”

This is taking a new thread of thought from somasoul’s comments in the “Christarchy!” post Lora wrote (thanks Lora)
I find often on this blog a tendency to attack what is seen as the “Christian” status quo, readily identified as the following:

1) Rich

2) Sheltered

3) Spiteful of “sinners”

I will, of course, say “Amen”, “Amen” and “Amen”, provided the caveat that this refers mostly to North American suburban Christians – and, in the global scheme of Christendom, this is a small portion of the body of Christ.

I mention this because I sometimes wonder when we take on a prophetic voice to critique Christians for the above errors, if not this critique itself issues forth from a privileged and ethnocentric perspective. (more…)

No Country for Old Men and the Depravity of Violence

No Country for Old Men is released today in select theaters, which leaves me wanting to live in a more important city.Nonetheless, I have only to wait two more weeks before the nationwide release.

Reviews are already rolling out and I highly suggest to all of you that you see the film if you are able. I have been anticipating this one for quite some time. Los Angeles Times movie reviewer Kenneth Turan describes the moral underpinnings of the film:

The story of stolen drug money and the horrific carnage it precipitates, “No Country for Old Men” doesn’t celebrate or smile at violence, it despairs of it, despairs of its randomness, pervasiveness, its inescapable nature, of the way it eats at the soul of society and the individuals in it.

No one should go into “No Country for Old Men” underestimating the unnerving intensity of its moments of on-screen violence, its parade of corpses and geysers of spurting blood. But as the story unfolds with the awful inevitability of a modern myth, it’s clear that the Coen brothers and McCarthy are not interested in violence for its own sake but for what it says about the world we happen to live in. “I got it under control,” a confident deputy says, and in moments he is dead. He didn’t have anywhere near the mastery he imagined, and in this truly despairing vision, neither does anyone else.

Commenting on the transience of life – particularly in the context of the war in Iraq, AIDS crises in Africa, and the genocide in Darfur – is an apt reflection on our current condition.
I think ‘No Country for Old Men’ will turn out to be a ghastly film filled with horrid violence. But that’s it’s exactly why it should be seen by Americans – who too often forget that war entails blowing someone’s head off, repeatedly. This is a call to renewal in our understanding of the depravity of violence, to understanding exactly what violence means: without romantic, cathartic, or exciting character.

Watch the Trailer here

Biblical Message for the Day

Feeding the Hungry

I serve as a full-time volunteer with an agency that coordinates homeless services. I thought a reflection on poverty would be apt, particularly given that we don’t have a “poverty” category yet on this blog.
Nehemiah 5 (NIrV)

1 Some men and their wives cried out against their Jewish brothers and sisters. 2 Some of them were saying, “We and our sons and daughters have increased our numbers. Now there are many of us. We have to get some grain so we can eat and stay alive.”

3 Others were saying, “We’re being forced to sell our fields, vineyards and homes. We have to do it to buy grain. There isn’t enough food for everyone.”

4 Still others were saying, “We’ve had to borrow money. We needed it to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. 5 We belong to the same family lines as the rest of our people. Our sons and daughters are as good as theirs. But we’ve had to sell them off as slaves. Some of our daughters have already been made slaves. But we can’t do anything about it. That’s because our fields and vineyards now belong to others.” (more…)

1st Year Reflections from a 1st Year Mennonite – Gonna be a long one folks

A friend of mine invited me to a Mennonite church with her to experience their message this past November of 2006. I looked into the history; I examined the theology. And it made sense to me. As a result, I had a Christian conversion.

And then I spent some time in the church, and found that faith can smolder even among Mennonites. Despite a great theological understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit, I rarely hear Mennonites talk about the Spirit in their lives. Though preaching pacifism, some Mennonite lives out passive-ism. And still others cling to an ethnic identity which, while certainly important to heritage, is also exclusionary for those folks who don’t share that history.

I found this blog and thought perhaps it could be a helpful spiritual outlet for me. And, indeed, it has been.

But even us folks I think warrant a bit of constructive criticism, which I do submit comes from within my limited worldview, so take it with a grain of salt. YAR ain’t perfect. I may love this space, but I don’t unflaggingly support it. In the upcoming year, I would suggest the following to be considered by us folks: (more…)

Biblical Authority in the Global South

I am currently reading The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South by Philip Jenkins. It is a fascinating book and if you have a chance to read it, I would highly encourage it. You can also hear Philip Jenkins give a little bit of an overview of the book from his address at the Berkeley Theological Union.

I would like to share a few quotes for discussion. From the end of the the chapter “Power in the Book” which surveys contemporary African and Asian perspectives on the Bible and its striking conservatism in relation to Euro-American “scholarly” understanding of biblical interpretation, Jenkins writes:

By what standards, for instance, do churches decide whether particular biblical verses or passages carry special weight, or might be less authoritative than others? Except for the hardest of the hardcore fundamentalists, American Christians rarely believe that each and every verse of scripture carries the same degree of inspiration, and hence the same value. Instead, many assume an implicit hierarchy of texts, based on what is commonly viewed as the best scholarly opinion. So, for example, the assumption that St. Paul did not really write the Pastoral Epistles attributed to him – the letters to Timothy and Titus – means that these can be treated as less serious, less authoritative, than the apostle’s undoubted words in Romans or the Corinthian correspondence. To claim that “Paul didn’t really write this” consigns the Pastorals to a semi-apocryphal status. At one synod of the Church of England, a clerical presenter made the remarkable argument that since no scriptural texts prohibited the ordination of women, modern conservatives should not “set up artificial and inept lines that no one can defend”. Apparently, in such a view, the explicit prohibition on women’s leadership or teaching authority found in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 no longer ecen counts as part of the New Testament. Opinions can differ about the authority that such a passage should command, but for many believers, it literally has been read out of scripture. (Jenkins, 40)

(more…)

Paul’s Authority?

This is a question I struggle with. Eric was leveled with the charge of iconoclasm for questioning the authority of Paul on the issue of sexuality. So I ask: Where does Paul’s authority lie? Does he fill in where Jesus didn’t explain things? Does he add to Jesus things that maybe weren’t meant to be added? Do either questions matter? Does he have final authority on sin and Christian practice? If not final authority, then where is his place in the “overall trajectory of scripture”?

Let’s venture out here a little bit. If you are arguing in the tradition of Paul as authoritative, don’t assume that this is self-evident. Prove it. If you are arguing that Paul’s authority is questionable, same applies: prove it.

Liberal and Conservative Christians

While at the conference in San Jose, I encountered a great deal of conversation about “liberal” and “conservative” Christians, discussion which treated these as polar opposites and if you fall behind one particular view that is “liberal” than whoops! everything you think is liberal. I went to a workshop entitled “Sticks and Stones: A conversation about our conversations” presented by Dale Schrag who took a cue from Gregory Boyd on the polarizing debate happening within congregations throughout America and the devastating effects of the “Moral Majority” and the “Religious Right”. The politicizing of the church – something which is evident in MCUSA too, with a lot of focus on political issues – has ripped it apart, to the point where political allegiances are dictating what church you go to and what gospel you hear (or, should I say, choose to hear).

Does anyone else find the terms “liberal” and “conservative” problematic as they are used in a Christian context? I smell CNN and Fox News all over that distinction.
A few rhetorical questions:
Are you a “liberal” Christian just because you strategize ways to assist the poor? Are you “conservative if you don’t? Are you “conservative” because you place such an emphasis on scripture? Are you “liberal” because you don’t?

My Problem with “Opening the Floodgates”

I had a lot of great discussions with Katie (and other YAR’s) this week at San Jose. Katie asked that I write a post about how I, as someone who did not grow up in the church, understand what the church teaches about queer sexuality.

First of all, I will say that, generally, Christian thought about same-sex sexuality appears backwards to me. It seems to neglect our Lord’s commandment to love and instead go around being Satan (which, I learned, is translated as “prosecutor”). And the old “love the sinner, hate the sin” thing isn’t the commandment – love is unconditional, and what you are saying when you say “love the sinner, hate the sin” is “I love you but…”, which is conditional. There are serious pitfalls in this thinking (and, I will admit, even in my own on the subject).

Another problem I find in the teaching of sexuality is what I call Floodgate theory
but which can be identified as the “slippery slope fallacy”. What is Floodgate Theory? (more…)

San Jose YAR Meetup

I was really excited to meet some of the YAR authors/lurkers at the San Jose conference this week, to hear of the kind of things you are doing inside and outside the Church, and to hear the insights you had about the future of the church.

On Wed, July 4th, several YAR authors and sympathizers had dinner and discussed issues that they felt were pressing in the church. Here are my notes from the meeting. (more…)

Meeting the Church

I haven’t taken much time on this blog to talk about myself. I should say that I am an outsider in this church – my last name isn’t Yoder, Miller, Freisen, or Moshier.

I have only been a Christian for 9 months; the Mennonite congregation I attend (a beautiful place that I hope my new-found YAR friends can come see some day) was evangelical merely by their presence – they were spiritually formative by aligning speech and action and desire and vision. I would not want to be any place else.

I am writing from the convention in San Jose; I have been here since yesterday and will be leaving tomorrow (short time, I know, but I’m a busy guy).

I am coming to learn why it is frustrating to penetrate the Mennonite world: there are a lot of people who make money off of being Mennonite. (more…)

A little help from my YAR friends…

Hey gang,

This is of little importance to the larger dialogues we are having, but it is something of importance to me.

I am currently investigating schools of theology/semiaries. I currently hold an undergraduate humanities degree and want to explore possibilities for Th.D’s or Ph.D’s in theological studies (don’t know the difference there… different kind of job possibilities available?). I have outstanding grades and don’t think getting accepted will be the problem, I just don’t know where to look!

At any rate, I’ve found that the Anabaptist graduate programs, while offering much to the church and doing great work for equipping pastors, don’t seem to do as much in cultivating academic theological scholars.

I’m turning to my Anabaptist friends for help. If you are on the same journey as me or have already begun your journey and have any helpful insights about good Th.D/Ph.D theology schools out there, let me know. The best program I’ve investigated so far seems to be Duke University…. those Methodists/Wesleyan schools seem to have their act together…

Bible Reflection – 5/24

Matthew 22:15-22 (NIV)

15Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

18But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”

21″Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

22When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

(more…)

Lancaster Congregation to Ordain a Woman on June 24th

Taken from the online edition of The Mennonite

Lancaster Congregation to Ordain a Woman on June 24

LANCASTER, Pa.—More than 60 people from nine congregations gathered at the James Street Mennonite Church on May 16 to discuss how they might respond to a recent decision by Lancaster Mennonite Conference to not allow ordination for women (see Recommendation to Ordain Women Fails on page 19.)

“Very low on the list of options was to leave LMC,” said Linford King, overseer-bishop for the Lancaster City District, “and join another conference or start a new conference. There was a strong move to stay connected to LMC and go ahead with ordinations. The Lancaster district of LMC has formed its own ‘credentialing committee’ to interview candidates. The major impetus to move in this direction is the 1995 Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, our full participation as members with Mennonite Church USA, and the recent Executive Board Affirmation for the Gifts of Women. The group did not engage in the ‘administrative arrangement’ with another conference. There was also some talk of ‘taking a leave of absence’ from LMC and entering a ‘safe house’ free of conference policies and participation.”

James Street Mennonite church is planning for a service of ordination on June 24 for Elizabeth Nissley.—Posted at 10:30 a.m. on May 22 by Anna Groff

Bible Reflection – 5/22/07

I have put together the following reflection and prayer on the beauty of diversity in our world (please don’t cringe, I know the term “diversity” gets misused often as “let’s point out all the different stereotypes of different ethnic groups!”). The following passage from Mark reminds us that there isn’t just one way (one denomination, dare i say, “one religion”?) of looking at everything in the world.

Mark 9:38-41

38″Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

39″Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.

(more…)